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Monday Morning Manager: Monday, February 16th

TCU starts 2015 with a 32-4 weekend shellacking of Southern Illinois. And for a team that we all know pitches well, this year the Frogs may have the big bats to match their big arms...

Steven Branscombe-USA TODAY Sports

A successful weekend in the books. Unlike last year, TCU gets an opening weekend sweep. Despite personnel losses, the 2015 team looks like it hasn't skipped a beat since a perhaps premature exit from last year's College World Series.

We know the pitching is great. And we expected it to be great. And guess what? It is great (again) this year. But, you know what else is pretty great this year? The offense. Granted, the 32-4 weekend shellacking was against a team picked to finish 8th in their conference. But, I'll take that momentum going into a very tough week including; a game against UTA Tuesday and a very big weekend against a very good Arizona State team...

Friday: Back in the Groove

Can you really call this a slow start? It took the TCU bats a hot minute to get warmed up, but they soon found life and the Horned Frogs finished with a shutout to open the season. Morrison, without missing a beat, dazzled; throwing 7 scoreless innings, striking out 3 and walking 2.

I can firmly say that Keaton Jones is one of the greatest fielders that I’ve ever seen in college baseball. Some have a problem with his range, but that’s something gotten better over time. Jones, in a lot of ways is the opposite of Derek Jeter--Jeter made the highlight plays but statistically, was not a terrific fielder. But that’s sort of a bad message to send, right? What’s going to happen more; routine plays or charging towards the left field wall to make a spectacular play?Jones’ Concepcion-esque consistency has been a safehaven of solidarity since 2011 and will be greatly missed next season.

MVP(s) Friday: Preston Morrison and Keaton Jones

Saturday: Massacre

The final scoreline is really all you need to know. In their 22 hit, 16-4 win, we got to learn about this team. And guess what? It’s pretty nice. Cody Jones is proving to be as good of a leadoff hitter as you can ask for; going 5-5 and scoring 2 runs. Also, it only took to his second for wunderkind Evan Skoug to knock one out of Lupton--a rocket straight to center.

Perhaps most important, at least to me, is that Connor Wanhanen is a great two-hole hitter. It’s still early in the season, sure--and I’m fine with Schlossnagle still moving around the second batter--but as far as I can tell, and all things considered, the Saturday lineup is a perfect blueprint for this season. Again; Connor Wanhanen is great in that second spot. Odell, who’s still slapping the ball, is an ideal three hole, and of course, Skoug is the quintessential clean-up. And granted, the lineup will be tweaked depending on the opposing pitcher, and, among other natural baseball happenings, it’ll also change based on where Skoug is playing in the field--Catcher or 1B. Everything I heard through the ol’ grapevine indicated to me that the difference between last year’s team and this year’s team is that this year; this team can hit and score runs. It was confirmed Saturday.

Alexander’s performance Sunday was a little overshadowed by the high octane TCU offense. Despite being taken out in the 4th inning, and giving up 3 unearned runs, Alexander was strong--striking out 3 amongst 5 hits and giving up no walks. Brian Howard, who got two innings of work and sort of voltured Alexander’s win, got the W for Saturday’s game. Also getting work was; Travis Evans, Preston Guillory, and Brian Trieglaff.

MVP(s) Saturday: Cody Jones

Sunday Youngday

Sunday was more of the same. Alex Young fits like a glove into the Sunday role, and I’m starting to really dig the Righty-Lefty-Lefty approach for the weekend. Amid 6 innings of work, Young finished Sunday with 4 strikeouts, 3 hits, and only one walk.

I’ll say this once, I’ll say this twice, I’m going to say this a thousand times this season. But it’s great to have Evan Skoug on this ballclub. Not only is he TCU’s big bat, and I don’t want to go full-fire-takes-Engel, but the kid is a gamer. Not only does he use his natural faculties: but he peppers it in with a little hustle and grind. Elsewhere, and even though it was a day where many of the non-starters got time in, what really impressed me was not so much the hitting--but more so, how patient our hitters are. Perhaps the new baseballs are making things a little easier. However, not only having the skills to hit, but mix that in with patience and that sets a dangerous precedent for this season at the plate.

Sunday MVP: Alex Young

Inside the Numbers*

  • (1)--It only took a game (and then some) for Keaton Jones to cross one of my wishes out off my list

  • Evan Skoug is well on his way to passing another wish on my list. (10+ HR) on the season

  • Preston Morrison had his 35th quality start on Friday night

  • (555)--Keaton Jones broke Taylor Featherstone’s career assist record. Featherston had 554 from 2009-11.

  • 22--the number of hits TCU collected Saturday in their 16-4 rout of the So. Illinois

  • TCU outscored Southern Illinois 32-4 this weekend.

*Some stats are courtesy of the wonderful


MVP, Keaton Jones: Just about everything we’ve said above. But for the first time in his illustrious career, this could be the first time Keaton’s bat could be a significant contribution to the Frogs. It’s early in the season, but should this continue, Jones’ presence on the field and at the plate make him a strong MVP candidate for the season. When you get your first career homerun in addition to becoming a career leader in a monster defensive statistic, it’s hard to refute this. Though the other Jones, Cody--who’s now reached base in the last 23 games, in addition to collecting 6 hits this weekend--wasn’t far off.

Cy Young, Preston Morrison: Absolute fire. Again, nothing flashy in the crowd pleasing sense--3 strikeouts, lots of ground balls--but Morrison already looks like he's going to finish in the Top 10 in ERA yet again this season.

Because I Can, Evan Skoug and Connor Wanhanen: 6 collective hits, a homerun for Skoug; the newcomers are looking sharp and comfortably filling in the gaps that Dylan Fitzgerald, Boomer White, and Kevin Cron left.

C’mon Man, Me: Crain could still end up being one of the best hitters on the team. But perhaps my plea for him to bat second was a little premature. It’ll be hard to convince me you shouldn’t bat you best hitter (at least non-power hitter) second, but at this point Wanhanen is an ideal two-hole hitter. Not to mention, Crain hitting in the 5th spot paid nice dividends--especially in Sunday’s game.

Looking Ahead

Next week’s going to fun. Arizona State is coming off a series win against a very, very good Oklahoma State team. And up there with LSU, USC, and Texas--Arizona State is a historic team that’s produced players like Barry Bonds, Ian Kinsler, and Reggie Jackson. So hopefully, we’ll have some interesting things for you this week from that point of view.

It’ll certainly be a challenge the next three weeks; playing out in Tempe next week, then Cal Poly the next, a Tuesday night game against Rice in Fort Worth, before the big weekend out in LA (USC, UCS, and Vanderbilt). But this was about as good of a warm-up as you could ask for.

Happy baseball season, everyone!